Lyutsifer Safin Appreciation Thread (SPOILERS)

edited November 16 in No Time To Die (2021) Posts: 10,686
One of the biggest sources of criticism NTTD has gotten is its villain, Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek. For me, however, I instantly put him in my own Top 10 favorite Bond villains, and my second watch of the film only reinforced how much I enjoyed his character. Some reasons why:

-The opening with him is a sequence unlike any other in a Bond film. With his mask and mystery, Safin is immediately established as a creepier / more horror-esque villain than perhaps any other in the franchise.
-Unsettling relationship with Madeleine. It’s never been done in Bond before to have a connection quite so freaky and disturbing. His love and obsession for her makes him extra creepy and an extra big threat to Bond. Also, the scene with him returning to Madeleine for the first time in years I thought was an awesome moment.
-Malek’s performance. Personally, I thought he absolutely hit the sweet spot between over the top and subtle. Some of his quirks and moments were a bit theatrical, but for the most part he is understated in a nice way. I love the look of pure wrath when he shoots Bond near the end.
-The villain who broke Bond more than any other. Safin may not have technically physically killed Bond, but gave him a worse fate with the poison that would have killed his loved ones. This is a victory for a Bond villain I doubt we’ll ever see the likes of again.
-His mystery. While I do also wish like many others there had been a little more time dedicated to Safin, I also like we can kind of interpret some things. For instance, it’s not explicitly said, but one could guess his scarring came from White’s attack on his family. I think maybe a little expansion on his motivation would have been nice, but I also like the fact so much is open to speculation.
-His lair. It is pure classic Bond, the likes of YOLT or TSWLM. Grand and aesthetically pleasing. And having him be in control of the poison garden from the YOLT novel? Awesome.
-“Smarter and stronger than SPECTRE.” As Fukunaga put it. SP left the sour taste in my mouth of unnecessarily connecting every past Craig villain to the big organization, but with Safin - even though he is sort of related in the sense of how they hurt his life - is a separate entity. This gave the variation I was hoping for, and also allowed him to be more his own person beyond an organization.
-Perfect blend of new and old, including many classic traits. No, I’m not referring to the scarring. Safin has the god complex, intense conversation with Bond, epic lair, world domination plot, but has the uniqueness of being tied to the Bond girl so eerily, having a vendetta against SPECTRE, and doing some interesting things we hadn’t seen before like interfering with children and screwing with Bond worse than any other.

For others who really loved Safin as a villain, I’d love to hear more thoughts here. Or those who liked / didn’t like him but wished some things were different. For me, rather than a weakness, he was one of the best parts of NTTD, which I enjoyed very much!

Comments

  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 19,976
    I agree with you, @FoxRox. I've been having this feeling for the past few weeks that the popular vote had turned its back on Safin. My favourite podcast deemed him a poor villain, even. Yet I don't see it that way. Apart from Malek's downplayed but still present charisma, his character is almost too elusive for Bond to get to. The feeling he gave me was that of a creature from another dimension, as it were. He's unlike any of the other Craig villains.
  • edited November 16 Posts: 456
    One of the biggest sources of criticism NTTD has gotten is its villain, Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek

    A key distinction should be made.

    Many people enjoyed Malek's performance, but disliked his limited screentime and how the writers wrote his character.
  • Posts: 5,918
    I too loved this character.... And I have a theory: knowing he, as a young man, saved Madeleine... And knowing that he fell in love with her-- either at the moment, or it was something that developed over the years-- he gives off a creepy and disgusting feeling that he's an Incel.... Ever since I saw the film, he just gave me that vibe.
    And outside of his obvious genius, he's a social outcast both physically and emotionally, making this pariah a very dangerous man indeed.
    Even the way he discusses his "tragedy" (before Bond puts him down), he has to give his life inflated meanings, when in reality he's a troubled loner/loser... I think he was already a sick young boy even before White wiped out his family; but their murders gave him a mission and a structure.
    I don't want to get anymore into this guy's head.
    I also admire the limited screentime; once he meets adult Madeleine (and inappropriately mentions her beauty), his presence oozes over every scene until we catch up with him again for the kidnapping and finale.
    This was a very effective foil, and as has been mentioned, very different than other villains in this series.
  • Posts: 10,686
    peter wrote: »
    I too loved this character.... And I have a theory: knowing he, as a young man, saved Madeleine... And knowing that he fell in love with her-- either at the moment, or it was something that developed over the years-- he gives off a creepy and disgusting feeling that he's an Incel.... Ever since I saw the film, he just gave me that vibe.
    And outside of his obvious genius, he's a social outcast both physically and emotionally, making this pariah a very dangerous man indeed.
    Even the way he discusses his "tragedy" (before Bond puts him down), he has to give his life inflated meanings, when in reality he's a troubled loner/loser... I think he was already a sick young boy even before White wiped out his family; but their murders gave him a mission and a structure.
    I don't want to get anymore into this guy's head.
    I also admire the limited screentime; once he meets adult Madeleine (and inappropriately mentions her beauty), his presence oozes over every scene until we catch up with him again for the kidnapping and finale.
    This was a very effective foil, and as has been mentioned, very different than other villains in this series.

    I am so glad I’m not the only one who caught and thinks about the creepy love he has for Madeleine! Excellent write-up. His mind is definitely in a very scary place for countless reasons.
  • FeyadorFeyador Montreal, Canada
    edited November 17 Posts: 223
    The thing about the main villains of the last three movies is that they were written as, literally, distorted reflections of Bond himself, almost as if they are meant to be the physical manifestations of Bond's inner demons, which he must do battle with ... at least I think that was the idea.

    That kind of worked for me in SF ("Look at what she has made us ...!"); not so much in SP (which is where they were going with the 'Bro-feld' misstep); and not at all, for me, in NTTD ("I could be looking at my own reflection"). Nothing to do with Malek's performance, his character's just underwritten, and that may be why there are so many Dr. No visual references surrounding him, to give his character the added weight of associated villainy.

    Or maybe crucial scenes were cut and we'll have to wait for the 4 hour Fukunaga cut!
  • MinionMinion Don't Hassle the Bond
    edited November 17 Posts: 1,158
    Here’s something I posted back when NTTD first released:

    Safin will be the most re-evaluated villain of the Craig era

    I've seen a number of people online remarking that the villains are the weakest aspect of NTTD, with the blame placed squarely on Safin for not having a clear enough motivation. As people are able to rewatch this movie on home video and streaming, I believe he will begin to rise in the esteem of the community as they understand what the writers were going for.

    The movie spells it all out for us by his face-to-face conversation with Bond on the island base. When he set out to kill Mr. White and his family as revenge for his childhood trauma, he did not expect to save the life of his daughter that same day. This simple act of taking a life and saving one set him down the road of developing a serious God-complex that manifests in the present when he acquires the means to achieve his goal. It's important to note how much they emphasized in the pre-release interviews that Safin does not view himself as a villain; the eradication of SPECTRE was not simply out of revenge but as part of the big picture. From there, he intends to enact the systematic extinction of anyone he deems to be an undesirable element - from specific bloodlines to entire races - as he watches the corrupt old world crumble from his isolated safe haven with Madeleine at his side.

    The best part? For all his grandstanding and lofty aims, Bond just shoots him dead like the little pissant he actually is. The ultimate irony for someone who perceives themself as the center of a grand epic tragedy is if their opponent isn't into those same theatrics. He isn't allowed a sweeping monologue or even a witty retort by 007; he's unceremoniously executed as a small obstacle standing in the way of what's actually important. It was clearly the intention of the writers that we find him a delusional, pathetic, angry little man - just as Bond says - and Rami sold that exceptionally well. If he could be compared to any past Bond villain, he's remarkably similar to Stromberg. He was another angry little man who sought to destroy the planet to live in peace in his underwater utopia with a beautiful kidnapped woman by his side, but Bond just shows up and shoots him. The most appropriate death for someone who sees themselves as a god is to wind up face down in their own salad.

    I agree with @peter in that Safin closely mirrors the traits of an incel. It’s easy to see his “passionate” exterior is masking his pent up frustrations. Greg Wilson mentioned that Safin was rendered sterile on account of his poisoning which adds another degree to him being a fractured reflection of Bond, James Bond.
  • Posts: 7,221
    DarthDimi wrote: »
    I agree with you, @FoxRox. I've been having this feeling for the past few weeks that the popular vote had turned its back on Safin. My favourite podcast deemed him a poor villain, even. Yet I don't see it that way. Apart from Malek's downplayed but still present charisma, his character is almost too elusive for Bond to get to. The feeling he gave me was that of a creature from another dimension, as it were. He's unlike any of the other Craig villains.

    What's your favorite podcast?
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 19,976
    jobo wrote: »
    DarthDimi wrote: »
    I agree with you, @FoxRox. I've been having this feeling for the past few weeks that the popular vote had turned its back on Safin. My favourite podcast deemed him a poor villain, even. Yet I don't see it that way. Apart from Malek's downplayed but still present charisma, his character is almost too elusive for Bond to get to. The feeling he gave me was that of a creature from another dimension, as it were. He's unlike any of the other Craig villains.

    What's your favorite podcast?

    Now Playing Podcast
  • Love the incel reading @peter. Didn’t pick up on that myself but it makes perfect sense, really adds to the creepiness of his relationship with Madeline.
    DarthDimi wrote: »
    his character is almost too elusive for Bond to get to. The feeling he gave me was that of a creature from another dimension, as it were. He's unlike any of the other Craig villains.

    Completely agree, this is why I came to like Saffin more when I rewatched the film. I still found Malek’s performance slightly too hammy in parts, and a little too similar to Silva and Blofeld in some ways. But I definitely got that creature from another dimension vibe. I was confused about his motivations towards the end at first, but I understood more on rewatch, and the mystery around him seemed to be almost the point to me. He was so creepily enigmatic that he took on sort of a symbolic quality for me, becoming a very literal embodiment of the whole “ruined childhood leading to screwed up people” theme. Because he’s the ultimate example. A man so twisted that his God complex is blinding him to how he’s the devil of the story (I don’t believe that name was an accident).
    Minion wrote: »
    For all his grandstanding and lofty aims, Bond just shoots him dead like the little pissant he actually is. The ultimate irony for someone who perceives themself as the center of a grand epic tragedy is if their opponent isn't into those same theatrics. He isn't allowed a sweeping monologue or even a witty retort by 007; he's unceremoniously executed as a small obstacle standing in the way of what's actually important. It was clearly the intention of the writers that we find him a delusional, pathetic, angry little man - just as Bond says - and Rami sold that exceptionally well.

    Yeah, I think the way he kills him is really important. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the lack of screentime given to Saffin and his scheme, and when I first saw the film I agreed. But I don’t think it was another Nine Eyes situation (quite a clever scheme imo, just unfortunately overshadowed by the foster brother theatrics). The execution being so unceremonious, and the scene in London, where Bond and M are rattling off possible targets for Heracles, made me think that lack of screen time was the point when I rewatched it. Because this film was about Bond, and his family. Saffin really isn’t the subject of the film, no matter how badly he thinks he is. He’s “just” the villain. A creepy pest getting in the way.
  • Posts: 10,686
    Lots of awesome posts here, thank you everyone so far for sharing thoughts! I'm also a big fan of Safin's death. It's so unceremonious and quick, and really it did absolutely nothing. Safin was already dead, Bond was already dead, it was just a depressed final kill from James. He couldn't even look at him. Totally unique in the series. Another thing I want to mention about Safin is his classic "villain melodrama," so to speak; he tells Bond "he made him do this" in reference to him poisoning him, which is absolutely ridiculous, but shows how far gone he is and how much he buys into disturbing forms of destiny.
  • Leon12Leon12 England
    Posts: 15
    He's quietly menacing, I mean he's not an over the top villain as in the Spy who loves me or Moonraker, more of sociopath who would gladly kill millions. Think he's one of the best Bond villains not just in the Craig ere but of any Bond film.
  • edited November 18 Posts: 516
    Safin is just a code name, his real name is ...”Dr. No.” : )
    And that WAS the Garden of Death. Prove me wrong! ;)
  • Posts: 516
    FoxRox wrote: »
    Lots of awesome posts here, thank you everyone so far for sharing thoughts! I'm also a big fan of Safin's death. It's so unceremonious and quick, and really it did absolutely nothing. Safin was already dead, Bond was already dead, it was just a depressed final kill from James. He couldn't even look at him. Totally unique in the series. Another thing I want to mention about Safin is his classic "villain melodrama," so to speak; he tells Bond "he made him do this" in reference to him poisoning him, which is absolutely ridiculous, but shows how far gone he is and how much he buys into disturbing forms of destiny.

    He’s completely mad. Delusional.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Writer @ http://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 14,958
    Safin is just a code name, his real name is ...”Dr. No.” : )
    And that WAS the Garden of Death. Prove me wrong! ;)

    Surely Safin is Blofeld then? ;)
  • I thought he was a good villain, yes not the best, but good.

    I too quite liked the fact that we don't fully and blatantly hear the full extent of his motivations - to me it makes him more intriguing, and also makes a nice change to the usual stereotype of Bond villains explaining everything about their evil plan to Bond.

    And he was certainly very effective as a villain - after all, he achieved something no other Bond villain has ever managed to do ;)
  • Posts: 516
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    Safin is just a code name, his real name is ...”Dr. No.” : )
    And that WAS the Garden of Death. Prove me wrong! ;)

    Surely Safin is Blofeld then? ;)

    ;) :D
  • BennyBenny Classified Administrator, Moderator
    Posts: 12,071
    @sworddevil1 this is an appreciation thread.
    If you have nothing positive to add, maybe this isn’t the thread for you. We’re well aware of your thoughts on NTTD.
    Thanks
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